What you won’t hear in today’s programme for government…
IN her first programme for government in 2014, Nicola Sturgeon promised to ‘lead by example’.
She also spoke of the need to find new ways of harnessing the ‘energy’ supposedly produced by the independence referendum.
But the intervening years have seen government locked in a state of relative paralysis, eschewing genuine radicalism in favour of continuing the push for the break-up of the UK.
Today the First Minister will set out her agenda for 2017–18, and she deserves credit for heeding the Mail’s call to introduce a bottle deposit scheme.
But the omens for further meaningful reform of public services or the economy are far from promising.
This is an administration content to continue with the Left-wing statism that has defined much of the last 20 years of devolution, and there is little sign of a fundamental change in direction.
Here are 10 key policies that should be in today’s programme – but which are guaranteed not to appear:
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s mastery of basic economics is about as robust as a trainee teacher’s knowledge of the ‘three Rs’.
His greatest accomplishment has been a tax raid on ‘rich’ higher rate taxpayers.
But with Scotland’s ‘net deficit’ now exceeding £13billion, a more radical vision is required.
Mr Mackay should remember that in 1961, John F Kennedy inherited a top rate of income tax of 91 per cent and faced Republican opposition in reducing it to 70 per cent.
But his policy change resulted in the US moving from deficit to a £2.4billion surplus by 1965.
The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) replaced stamp duty in Scotland two years ago.
LBTT makes it significantly more expensive to buy a property costing more than £325,000, while those purchasing properties costing less than £145,000 no longer pay any tax.
A recent survey revealed that those trying to sell homes at the top end of the property market are having to lower the asking price, or accept offers of up to 10 per cent lower than originally planned.
This has caused a logjam with repercussions lower down the property market: it’s time to go back to the drawing board before further damage is done.
A row over a revaluation of business rates earlier this year saw crippling rises of up to 400 per cent.
The Scottish Retail Consortium has warned that the ‘overall rates burden is too onerous’.
But a new review by former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Ken Barclay fails to propose a rates overhaul.
In the short term, there must be more rates relief for businesses, with a fundamental reshaping of a deeply flawed system to follow (while the Barclay Review should be lost in the bottom of a very deep drawer…)
The Scottish Government introduced a moratorium on fracking, a method of gas extraction, in January 2015 and ministers have still to decide if this should be made permanent.
New supplies of shale gas have pushed gas production up and prices down in the US; likewise fracking in Scotland could slash energy bills.
The SNP should end its foolish fetish for wind farms – and use our long tradition of engineering excellence to start a fracking revolution.
It was Miss Sturgeon’s overriding ambition when she was appointed First Minister to turn around the tanker of educational failure.
But pupils in former Soviet bloc nations are now outperforming their Scots counterparts; MSPs warn trainee teachers cannot read or write properly; and the Curriculum for Excellence has been denounced as a recipe for dumbing down.
Education Secretary John Swinney is tinkering with the way schools are run – but there should be a major review of the failed comprehensive structure to free schools from the dead hand of council control.
GP shortages, missed waiting times targets, patients languishing on trolleys, others being turned away from busy A&E departments…
Under the SNP, fat cat health chiefs on six-figure salaries have presided over shambolic mismanagement and botched reorganisations.
Yet each year £10.5million is spent by the NHS on paracetamol, £2.9 million on aspirin, £1.6 million on sun cream and £1.8 million on shampoo, under the SNP’s ‘free’ prescription policy.
That should be scrapped immediately – but ministers should also launch a wide-ranging commission to consider the merits of more privatisation and charging for GP visits.
The status quo is failing too many to be sustainable.
The SNP’s transformation of our police service into a single force was an exercise in cost-cutting that has resulted in a series of high-profile blunders.
Hundreds of officers face the axe; the chief constable is under investigation for alleged ‘gross misconduct’; the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is led by a lame duck chairman who was forced to announce his resignation following a bullying row.
An independent inquiry is needed into numerous police call-handling failures, while the SPA’s bosses should be replaced by more competent administrators.
Soft touch courts have become a laughing stock and the Scottish Sentencing Council meets in private to formulate guidelines that judges do not have to follow. It needs to be more accountable to victims of crime.
Perhaps the most disaster-prone government initiative in the history of devolution, Named Person is the ultimate ‘zombie’ policy.
The SNP’s proposal for mass state surveillance of children remains on the agenda after changes were made to the legislation following a damning Supreme Court judgment last year – which ruled the plans largely unlawful.
With even former cheerleaders of Named Person warning that the modifications do not go far enough, the entire misconceived project should be abandoned entirely.
INDYREF 2 AND BREXIT
According to an ICM poll conducted in June, only 37 per cent of Scots would vote Yes in a second independence referendum – compared with a No vote of 53 per cent, while 11 per cent ‘don’t know’.
Yet Miss Sturgeon recently met grassroots activists to discuss relaunching the ill-fated Yes movement.
The success of ‘indyref2’ rests entirely on banking that Brexit will fail.
But in reality the SNP should re-cast itself as champion and custodian of the new powers Holyrood stands to gain from EU withdrawal.
QUANGOS AND CHARITIES
The SNP’s promised ‘bonfire of the quangos’ never materialised.
According to think-tank Reform Scotland, 43 quango officials are paid more than the First Minister and 132 – enough to fill the Scottish parliament – are paid more than a Cabinet Secretary.
The fat culture must end and quangos should be drastically reduced in number, with their responsibilities transferred to government departments and local authorities.
As the Mail revealed earlier this year, there is also a vast network of publicly-funded charities now operating effectively as government bodies, promulgating SNP policy.
The SNP should ban charities from political lobbying and create a tougher watchdog than the toothless Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to police the sector.